Use Online Lead Generation To Link B2b Marketing And Sales
Mac H McIntoshNow that the Internet is a fixture as a marketing channel, you probably have been handling questions about what role online marketing or the Internet should play for your company. How much of your marketing budget should be used to fund it? What are the best ways to use online marketing for sales lead generation?As a B2B marketing consultant I work with dozens of companies selling products or services to businesses. So I see what’s working in regard to business-to-business marketing online, and what companies are spending. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned with you.Start with your websiteIf you’ve got an established website, I’ll bet you’re in your third or fourth round of redesigning it by now. When it first appeared, it was probably a messy collection of technical support information and difficult to navigate. Then someone in marketing turned it into an online brochure. Then you added a few bells and whistles to make it hip and easier to use. Now is the time to rethink the site’s value to the bottom line.Link marketing to the sales processUse marketing tactics to drive prospects to your website, then give them the information they need online and encourage them to move forward in the buying process by identifying themselves. Think about individual users and what answers or solutions they are looking for on your website. Structure your messaging and linking to mimic their searching and buying processes.If your website visitors know the product name or number, let them access information about the product that way. For example, let them get a list of products with clear technical specs and recommendations about which are best for common situations. Or if someone isn’t sure what they need, show them a path where they can find all the products or services that are appropriate for their type of company.Meet the visitors’ needsInvite people to visit for as long as they want, and delve as deep as they care to. Do you have shallow, top-line information available on your site? If they need more in-depth information, do you make it easy to find?Plan to make offers that will entice prospects to identify and qualify themselves. Can you create a free guide for choosing among your products or services? Can you offer a whitepaper to show how their kind of organization is using your product or service to solve problems? You can use it as bait for having your visitors share their names, titles, company names and contact information. Capture this information in your lead management and lead nurturing system so sales people can take advantage of it.Just don’t make visitors sit through a Flash(r) animated commercial every time they visit your site. You may think it’s cool, but it just wastes their time.Email marketingSending email to people who have expressed an interest in your products or services is a very cost effective way to market them. Many of my clients are shifting a large portion of their direct mail dollars into email.Give some serious thought to what you plan to send and how frequently. Sometimes I feel more like a punching bag than a prospect or customer as I get slugged with too many inappropriate offers too often by companies who think they are doing “customer relationship management.”Newsletters – online vs. printMy clients report great success with online newsletters– both their own as well as when they advertise in an industry newsletter. Why? Because the folks receiving the newsletter have opted-in or requested the free subscription and are more likely to read it and notice your ad, article or sponsorship.Some people would prefer to receive a printed version of your newsletter instead. So if you want to be able to communicate with these people you need to print and mail some copies in addition to those you email. Don’t forget print’s advantages: it stays on someone’s desk, it is there in his or her briefcase during the train ride home, and it can be handed to a colleague, where email is deleted with a few clicks. Make sure the sales phone number is prominent so the sales department sees the benefit directly.DirectoriesMost print directory publishers are online as well, frequently offering you exposure in both mediums for the same price. Keep in mind that directories are often where buyers look when they are seeking new suppliers and have immediate needs. Some directories rank high as authority sites in search results and lead to more visitors.Publish fresh content on related websitesIndustry websites need online content to attract and keep visitors. Many refresh their content daily or weekly. This gives you plenty of opportunities for editorial contributions. Use the article publishing websites for growing links, but don’t miss the opportunity to create custom-written articles for the top websites in your industry.Email the online editor, asking him/her what they are looking for and offering to supply appropriate articles, releases or contacts for possible interviews. You might be surprised at how receptive online editors can be.Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and advertising onlineYour online ad budget should be focused on targeted audiences– on vertical industry, publication and association websites already serving the markets you wish to reach. Then, not only are you creating awareness with the right audience, your click-through rates will increase significantly.If you advertise directly with a website publisher, rather than simply running your online ads on the home page of the website, consider placing your ads only in special sections that relate to your products and services or linking them to appropriate keyword searches.How much to budget for online B2B marketingOver the last few years, I have been finding that business-to-business marketing clients have increased budgets from 20% up to about 35%, depending on the size and competitiveness of their market. Online Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad rates such as those on Google, Yahoo, and MSN have been increasing as well, further inflating the spend for online marketing. Building links to your websites may look like a drain on the budget but it’s a must in today’s competetive online space. (Please note that this doesn’t include funding e-commerce such as online order processing– that usually comes out of sales or operations budgets.)Where is the money coming from? Occasionally it comes from larger marketing communications budgets. A proven technique for getting a larger budget is to plaster the conference room with all your competitors’ ads, emails, web pages and literature, then invite your boss in to discuss your budget. When he sees everything the competition is doing, he might just have an impulsive response and boost your budget!However, funding for online marketing usually is reallocated from other media. For example, a number of my clients have shifted half or more of their direct mail budget to email and cut out marginally producing trade shows and secondary advertising buys to free up money for Internet-related expenditures.ConclusionOnline marketing won’t replace your print advertising, direct mail, trade shows, public relations and other marketing tools. Instead, leverage online marketing to reach your prospects and plan for it in your B2B lead generation and marketing toolkit.
M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is described as one of America’s leading B2B sales and marketing consultants. Find out how he can help get more high-quality leads and turn them into sales with